2012 CFN First Look Rankings - No. 51 to 75

Posted Jan 19, 2012

The first look at the rankings for the 2012 college football season. ... No. 51 to 75

CFN 2012 First Look Rankings

No. 51 to No. 75

2011 CFN First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

2011 CFN Final Season Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 20

- CFN 2011 FINAL Rankings, Top  25

2012 CFN First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 24

- Follow us on Twitter ... ColFootballNews

It might seem way too early, but considering the returning starters and the teams coming back, before Signing Day and spring ball, where does everyone stand? Here's CFN's first look at all the teams for 2012. The First Look Ranking is based on how good the teams appear to be at the moment.

75. Colorado (3-10)

The Buffs didn't exactly shine in their first year in the Pac-12, but they won two of their final three games and screwed up Utah's conference title hopes. The secondary has to be far, far better after getting ripped up time again by any efficient quarterback. Three starters return in the defensive backfield, but the pass rush that was so impressive has to replace end Josh Hartigan. Offensively, Tyler Hansen and Rodney Stewart are done after doing what they could in the backfield for the last few years, and this spring there should be an interesting battle at quarterback, while Tony Jones and Josh Ford will get their chances to carry the mail. The line loses two starters including top guard Ryan Miller, while top wide receiver Toney Clemson is done on the outside X position.

74. Connecticut (5-7)

The Huskies have to find an offensive identity after doing nothing in any phase. Three starters return to a line that didn't generate any sort of a push, and the top receivers are gone, but the backfield returns intact with Johnny McEntee needing to shine if he can hold on to the starting quarterback gig. RB Lyle McCombs put together a solid season, but he needs more help if Scott McCummings isn't under center. The defense that rocked against the run loses starting tackles Twyon Martin and Kendall Reyes, but Sio Moore and the linebacking corps should be terrific. The secondary gets all four starters back after finishing 113th in the nation in pass defense.

73. Wake Forest (6-7)

The second half of the season might have been awful, losing five of the final six games, but it was still a bowl season and a nice step forward under Jim Grobe. Tanner Price is a good quarterback to work around, but he loses star receiver Chris Givens a year early to the NFL and RB Brandon Pendergrass will be missed. The big issue is the O line with four starters gone and only center Garrick Williams returning. The defense that didn't get any pass rush, but three starters are back to the line and five starters return to the front seven. Both safeties – Josh Bush and Cyhl Quarles – are done meaning corners Merrill Noel and Kenny Okro needing to do even more. Considering the team has so many question marks on offense, PK Jimmy Newman could become the MVP.

72. Houston (13-1)

Life goes on after a terrific 13-1 season. New head coach Tony Levine has a ton of work to do, but the system is still in place to keep the offensive production rolling. Case Keenum is finally done, and so is backup Cotton Turner. David Piland has a little bit of experience and should be ready to roll right away, but he won't have the same receiving corps Keenum enjoyed with all the top targets gone. On the plus side, four starters are back on the line. Heart-and-soul LB Sammy Brown is done, as is running mate Marcus McGraw. Three starters return to the secondary and seven starters are back overall on a defense that never got enough attention. Matt Hogan is an ultra-reliable kicker, and punter Richie Leone might actually be used this year.

71. East Carolina (5-7)

The Pirates have to go on without QB Dominique Davis, but nine starters return to an offense that finished 20th in the nation in passing. The running game was non-existent at times, but Torrance Hunt leads a promising trio of backs ready to do more. All the top targets are back, but Rio Johnson has to prove he can be the passer Davis was. The defense must come up with more of a pass rush, and it could happen with everyone returning up front. Leading tackler Jeremy Grove returns along with most of the linebacking corps, but three starters are gone from a secondary that turned out to be one of the team's biggest strengths.

70. Maryland (2-10)

Well that didn't exactly work. Randy Edsall needs to have a few answers in Year Two after a complete and utter disaster following the opening day win over Miami. The first job will be to settle on a quarterback, hoping C.J. Brown is the main man. On the plus side, nine starters are back with all five back up front after being one of the few bright spots. RB Davin Meggett is gone, but speedy Justus Pickett should carry more of the load. The defense was the bigger problem with no production against the run. The pass rush was solid, and it should be stronger with Andre Monroe up the middle to go next to Joe Vellone, who might be the nation's best returning tackle. MLB Demetrius Hartsfield was fifth in the nation in tackles, but he needs more help. Ten starters return only losing corner Trenton Hughes.

69. Boston College (4-8)

The Eagles came on late winning three of the final five games after a disastrous start, but the only hope of improving and getting back into the ACC title chase is to get more out of an offense that finished 112th in the nation in total yards and scoring. Center Mark Spinney is gone, but ten other offensive starters return. QB Chase Rettig is back, and he gets all his top receivers including Bobby Swigert and Alex Amidon. Rolandan Finch took over the running duties, but Andre Williams is strong enough to carry some of the load. The defense loses end Max Holloway and Butkus winner Luke Kuechly a year early to the NFL, but eight starters return from a group that was a rock against the run. Kevin Pierre-Louis needs to be the new top tackler, and someone has to start getting into the backfield.

68. Tulsa (11.62)

It's all up to the quarterback situation with Kalen Henderson needing to prove he's the playmaker G.J. Kinne was. Willie Carter is one of Conference USA's best receivers, leading a loaded corps that should make Henderson's life easier. Ja'Terian Douglas and all the running backs are back to balance things out, but three starters are gone off the line. The defense has to replace tackling machine linebacker Curnelius Arnick, but Shawn Jackson should be a dominant statistical star. Three starters return up front and in the secondary. Kicker/punter Kevin Fitzpatrick has to be replaced, but Trey Watts should be a top kickoff returner.

67. SMU (8-5)

Head coach June Jones is still around instead of Arizona State, and the team that rocked Pitt in the bowl game should be ready to make a major move in the Conference USA race. QB J.J. McDernott is done, but Kyle Padron is a veteran and star running back Zach Line is returning – hopefully – from a toe injury. The problem? The line loses four starters and two of the top receivers Cole Beasley and Terrance Wilkerson. The defense that finished second in the league loses both starting ends and has to upgrade the depth, but the entire linebacking corps returns including Taylor Reed in the middle. Big tackling FS Chris Banjo is gone, but SS Ryan Smith should be one of the team's statistical stars.

66. Utah State (7-6)

The Aggies lose star running back Robert Turbin to the NFL a year early and won't have Michael Smith to pick up the slack. Speedy Kerwynn Williams has to be the new star of the running game. Adam Kennedy is back at quarterback after starting late in the season, but Chuckie Keeton it the team's most dangerous playmaker in the backfield. Both starting guards are gone, but Tyler Larsen is one of the WAC's best centers. The defense that made tremendous strides last year loses heart-and-soul tackling linebackers Bobby Wagner and Kyle Gallagher, and end Levi Koskan and Quinn Garner are gone off the 3-4. Free safety Alfred Bowden is the only starter gone in the secondary.

65. Syracuse (5-7)

After last year's collapse with a 1-6 Big East record and five straight losses, the Orange has to come up with more on offense. QB Ryan Nassib is gone, as is top runner Antown Bailey, three starters up front, and WR Van Chew. Big bomber Charley Loeb is up next at quarterback, and he needs Alec Lemon to become a more dangerous No. 1 target. The defense was good, not great, and now it has to replace three starters up front and has to hope the loaded back seven can shine. The loss of leading tackler and pick-off artist Phillip Thomas to suspension late last year was a problem, but it gave other players time to be ready to hit the ground running. Shamarko Thomas and Jeremi Wilkes form a decent safety tandem, while undersized MLB Marquis Spruill should be a top tackler. PK Ross Krautman will be one of the team's top weapons.

64. FIU (8-5)

After a second straight excellent season, can Mario Cristobal keep the production going? With four starters back on one of the Sun Belt's best offensive lines, the foundation is there for a running game that should be excellent with Kedrick Rhodes and Jeremiah Harden pounding away. Jake Medlock is ready to take over the starting quarterback job full time, and he has a nice receiving corps to work with. However, playmaker T.Y. Hilton is done meaning the O has to find explosion from somewhere. The league's best scoring defense gets everyone back. Everyone. All 11 starters return to a D that was 30th in the nation in yards allowed and 14th in scoring defense.

63. Kentucky (5-7)

The SEC was miserable offensively last year, and Kentucky was the worst of the bad lot. With three starters gone off the offensive line, the pass protection that was so woeful should have problems improving right away, but junior right guard Larry Warford is a decent one to work around. The quarterback play has to be better, with Morgan Newton needing to get healthy and Maxwell Smith needing to use his experience to be better. All the top running backs return, and the team's best receiver, La'Rod King, is back. The defense has the impossible task of replacing safety Winston Guy and linebacker Danny Trevathan, and four of the five top defensive backs are gone, but all four starters on the line are back.

62. Arizona (4-8)

Are the pieces in place for Rich Rodriguez to get rolling with what he wants to do on offense right away? Not really. The program was built to throw the ball, and it did with Nick Foles under center finishing third in the nation in passing, and now RichRod needs bodies after Tom Savage and Daxx Garman chose to transfer. A few true freshmen will get a shot, but Josh Kern – assuming he signs – is a big bomber. The starter might end up coming from the JUCO ranks. It's going to take some rebuilding and retooling, but all five starters are back on the O line and Ka'Deem Carey and Daniel Jenkins are decent-looking backs. The defense was a disaster, finishing last in the Pac-12, but the entire line returns. Corner Tevin Wade is gone as is top pass rusher C.J. Parish, but leading tackler Marquis Flowers returns at free safety.

61. Southern Miss (12-2)

Ellis Johnson takes over the defending conference champion, but he has a ton of work to do. QB Austin Davis is gone, but big bomber Arsenio Favor appears to be ready to make the passing game shine. The running game that led the league should be terrific with Desmond Johnson leading a deep stable of backs. Both starting offensive tackles are done, but the interior of the line is sound. Defensively, there's no replacing end Cordarrow Law, but there are plenty of other issues with leading tackler Ronnie Thornton and FS Kendrick Pressley also done. In all, eight defensive starters need to be replaced as does terrific PK Danny Hrapmann.

60. Nevada (7-6)

It might not be a return to 2010, but the Wolf Pack should be decent after moving to the Mountain West. Three starters are back up front, but receivers Rishard Matthews and Tray Session are gone. QB Cody Fajardo is an emerging star with his excellent running ability, and he needs help from emerging back Stephfon Jefferson to take the heat off. The defense came up with one of its best years under Hall of Fame head coach Chris Ault, but key replacements are needed on the line and five of the front seven are gone. The secondary is full of three seniors after finishing first in the WAC in pass efficiency defense.

59. Oregon State (3-9)

Was 2011 a hiccup or was it a sign that things are slipping under head coach Mike Riley? The running game that was 118th in the nation gets back Malcolm Agnew and leading rusher Jovan Stevenson, but the line has to be far better with three starters returning. Sean Mannion is the quarterback Riley is building around, and he needs WR Markus Wheaton to do even more with James Rodgers finally out of eligibility. The defense that struggled so much against the run welcomes back five starters on the front seven, and while safety Lance Mitchell was good, the secondary will be solid with three starters returning. MLB Feti Unga is back after leading the team in tackles, while top pass rusher Scott Crichton has the potential to do far more.

58. Washington State (4-8)

Get your popcorn ready. Washington State might have had some fun and productive offenses in the past, but Mike Leach is about to take things to a whole other level. The nation's ninth-ranked passing game was already good, and now the spotlight will be on QB Jeff Tuel to see if he can stay healthy. If not, it'll be up to Connor Halliday to throw to rising star Marquess Wilson. The line gets three starters back, and while running the ball won't be the main mode of transportation, Rickey Galvin and Carl Winston are promising. The defense gets nine starters back after not doing nearly enough to rush the passer and not coming up with enough key stops. End Travis Long will be the key up front, while SS Deone Bucannon should be among the Pac-12's leading tacklers.

57. Baylor (10-3)

Is it the offense or the parts? Remember, Art Briles' teams put up huge numbers at Houston before taking over at Baylor, but Robert Griffin took things to another level. Nick Florence has the unenviable task of replacing the Heisman winner, and he won't have Kendall Wright to throw to or Terrance Ganaway to hand off to. Three starters return up front and Terrance Williams and Tevin Reese are good receivers, but there's a ton of turnover. The defense that was so awful – finishing 116th in the nation – loses both starting tackles, but nine starters are back after trotting out six sophomores. The punting game was among the worst in America, but Spencer Roth is back along with PK Aaron Jones.

56. Iowa State (6-7)

The Cyclones came up with one of the most important wins of 2011, beating Oklahoma State, and went to a bowl game. There's a ceiling on what the program can do, but the hope is to do a bit more with a veteran team returning led by QB Jared Barnett. He'll be without receivers Darius Reynolds and Darius Darks, but he'll get Josh Lenz back. LT Kelechi Osemele is impossible to replace, but three starters are back up front. The defense that wasn't too bad at times gets back tackling machines A.J. Klein and Jake Knott to form one of the nation's best linebacking duos, and they'll have plenty of work to do with three starters gone from the line. CB Leonard Johnson and SS Ter'Ran Benton are done.

55. Arizona State (6-7)

Not only is the program undergoing an overhaul at coach, with Todd Graham trying to right the ship, but several big holes need to be filled. The loss of QB Brock Osweiler a year early to the NFL hurts, top target Gerell Robinson is done, and three starters are gone off the line. RB Cameron Marshall will be fed the ball early and often, but he'll need help from a steady quarterback – possibly sophomore Mike Bercovici – to take the heat off. For good and bad, linebacker Vontaze Burfict took off for the pros, but that leaves just two starters – tackle Will Sutton and end Junior Onyeali – back on a defense that struggled way too much. Both safeties need to be replaced, but corners Osahon Irabor and Deveron Carr are back on the outside. Jamal Miles and Kyle Middlebrooks should be among the nation's top returners.

54. Pitt (6-7)

New head coach Paul Chryst needs to upgrade an offense that sputtered and struggled way too often in a disappointing year under Todd Graham. Getting RB Ray Graham back healthy would be a great start, but QB Tino Sunseri needs to be better and more efficient. The line has work to do with three starters gone from a group that did absolutely nothing in pass protection. If Sunseri gets time, he could shine with a veteran receiving corps returning. The defense that was dominant at getting into the backfield loses Brandon Lindsey and three starters up front, but leading sacker Aaron Donald is back at one end. Five starters are gone from the front seven, but three starters return to the secondary including FS Jared Holley, who should be one of the Big East/s top tacklers.

53. Vanderbilt (6-7)

Head coach James Franklin got the team to a bowl game in his first season, and now he has a better team coming back. Jordan Rodgers is the unquestioned starting quarterback, and he has a good group of skill players to work with led by RB Zac Stacy and big receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd. Making it all work is a line that gets four starters back. The defense loses the man in the middle, Chris Marve, and ball-hawking defensive backs Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson are done. However, six starters are back and enough depth returns to expect even more from a defense that finished 18th in the nation.

52. Miami (6-6)

What's going to happen over the next few years after the Nevin Shapiro findings kick in? There was a mass exit of juniors to the NFL, but head coach Al Golden has a loaded recruiting class coming in with the promise that all the top prospects will get a shot to start right away. QB Stephen Morris shoukln't have to look over his shoulder, but he won't have Lamar Miller to hand off to or Tommy Streeter to throw to. Only two starters are back up front and there aren't any proven players to get the attack rolling. The defense that was shockingly mediocre at everything but allowing points loses end Olivier Vernon and MLB Sean Spence. Two starters are back in the secondary and four starter return to the front seven, but it's going to be a work in progress.

51. Iowa (7-6)

It could be another down year with a slew of new starters needing to play huge roles. Iowa lost star running back Marcus Coker, top receiver Marvin McNutt, and NFL-bound tackle Riley Reiff, so how is the attack going to be more consistent? It's probably won't be, even though QB James Vandenberg returns and Keenan Davis is ready to fill the role of a No. 1 receiver. Only two starters are back on a shaky offensive line, while the underwhelming defensive front has to replace three starters including tackle Mike Daniels and end Broderick Binns. Leading tackler James Morris returns, but corner Shaun Prater and SS Jordan Bernstine have to be replaced.
2012 CFN First Look Rankings
The Top 10 | Rankings 11-25 | Rankings 26-50
- Rankings 51-75 | Rankings 76-100The Bottom 24

- Follow us on Twitter ... ColFootballNews